Earlier in the month, it was reported that Yahoo was scanning all of its user’s emails to search for a specific series of characters at the behest of US intelligence agencies. Now legislators are demanding information about this surveillance program. A bipartisan group of 48 members of congress have signed a letter requesting a briefing on this matter. The letter was posted on Twitter by congressman Justin Amash.
The letter is addressed to Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. It begins by recounting the news coverage of the email scanning. Multiple outlets had inside sources stating the existence of the email scanning program, but there were conflicting accounts as to what legal authority was used to justify the order sent to Yahoo, as well as the technical details of how the scanning was implemented. The legislators request a briefing to clear up the confusion surrounding this program. The letter concludes:
There is significant confusion regarding the existence and nature of the program described by these reports and legal questions implicated by the accuracy of specific details. As legislators, it is our responsibility to have accurate information about the intelligence activities conducted by the federal government. Accordingly, we request information and a briefing as soon as possible for all members of Congress to resolve the issues raised by these reports.
All of the legislators who signed this letter are members of the House of Representatives, but the email scanning has drawn attention from the Senate as well. Last week, Senator Ron Wyden demanded that the executive branch release court opinions related to the email scanning program. He stated:
Recent reports of a mass-email scanning program have alleged that federal law is being interpreted in ways that many Americans would find surprising and troubling. The USA Freedom Act requires the executive branch to declassify Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions that involve novel interpretations of laws or the Constitution and I certainly expect the Executive Branch to follow this law.
Should legislators be briefed on the details of Yahoo’s email scanning program? Leave your comments below.